The Attractions of Christian Metaphysics: Part 1, Image and Fall

Why believe in Christianity?

Christian apologetics is a difficult, fraught task. And while I don't think that it's possible to argue that Christianity has an exclusive corner on the market for metaphysical truth, what I do think you can do is two things.

First, I think you can make a reasonable case that some really, really important things require some appeal to metaphysics. And by that I mean a simple axiomatic givenness that can't be grounded in a purely scientific, empirical, descriptive account. I'll illustrate what I mean by "axiomatic givenness" in the posts of this series.

Second, I think you can go on to make a reasonable case that Christianity has a suite of metaphysical beliefs that are really attractive.

Basically, we need a metaphysical system and Christianity has a really attractive one to offer. So I'd like to take a few posts to sketch out some metaphysical ideas in Christianity and why I find them attractive.

To start, I find Christian anthropology to be very powerful and important.

By anthropology I simply mean "What are humans like?"

Almost every ethical, political, economic, educational, therapeutic and social system has, at its heart, a view of humanity.

Democrats have a view of humanity different from Republicans.

Marxists have a view of humanity different from capitalists.

Freud had a view of humanity different from Jung.

Hobbes had a view of humanity different from Rousseau.

And on and on.

Are humans rational or irrational? Good or bad? Competitive or cooperative?

These aren't abstract philosophical questions. Your answers to the questions affect everything from how you parent, to how you vote, to the school you send your kids to, to how your therapist approaches your issues, to how trusting you are of your fellow human beings and human institutions (from the government, to the markets, to the police).

In the background there is a working model of human nature and it governs almost everything we see around us, along with our own attitudes and behaviors.

Like I said, metaphysics. A working, axiomatic assumption about human nature that guides politics, parenting, ethics, education, economics, therapy and our default attitude about human beings and human institutions. Odds are, when we disagree about some controversial issue--from war to the legalization of drugs to corporal punishment to schools to taxation--what sits behind these disagreements are conflicting views of human nature.

We vote and parent differently because of metaphysics.

For me, what makes the Christian view of human nature so appealing is its dialectic between humanity being created in the Image of God and the Fall.

More on this in a later post, but our primal, fundamental nature is good. Humans are created in the Image of God. As Danielle Shroyer puts it, our identities flow out of "original blessing." Goodness is our origin and goodness is our potential.

And yet, this goodness is marred, wounded, damaged and eclipsed by "fall," by sin, depravity, wickedness, ignorance and evil.

Again, Christianity doesn't have exclusive rights on having a mixed and ambivalent view of human nature, but it is one of the great attractions of our faith. The Christian view of human nature spans the universe of human action and history. Christianity can stand alongside the most optimistic, romantic and humanistic accounts of human goodness and potential. There is no flower child that Christianity can't get behind.

But at the same time, there is no horror or atrocity--from torture to abuse to genocide--that Christianity cannot predict, envision or fathom. Christianity descends to the darkest depths of human depravity.

In Image and Fall, Christianity grasps the entire bandwidth of human morality and potential.

There is no view of human nature on offer more expansive or complete.

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